Boxing Pandora
2008 Nevada Press Association first-place award winner
Expanded from the 9-23-2007 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune

Updated 9-25-2007, 10-26-2008, 9-20-2009

According to Greek myth, an overly curious girl named Pandora couldn't resist opening a box of poxes and thus unleashed all the illnesses which afflict the world to this very day.

Perhaps Pandora was the first feminist. She certainly refused to do what the boys in charge ordered. As with the definition of terrorist vs. freedom fighter, the definition depends on your point of view – on whose ox is being gored, whose bush is being burned, or which Clinton you dislike the most.

This week, Pandora's frontline opponents will fight another round in an endless two-front war. The nurses at Renown/Washoe Medical Center have for more than 20 years been forced to battle both maladies and management.

They can blame me for starting this fight. In 1990, Lech Walesa, the world's most famous labor leader, visited the United States. With a little help from the AFL-CIO, U.S. taxpayers and Pope John Paul II, he had played a major role in breaking the USSR and its stranglehold on eastern Europe.

While here, Walesa cut some TV spots espousing the benefits of unionization. I convinced the Northern Nevada Central Labor Council to fund a local media campaign and had the future Polish president's spots translated into both English and Spanish.

The advertising scored a lot of publicity and brought a rash of phone calls to the Nevada State AFL-CIO from workers wanting to unionize. Several came from Washoe Med nurses who were being increasingly squeezed by the bandido management which had convinced a corrupt county commission to privatize the hospital for 30 pieces of silver in 1985.

By 1990, nurses had gotten quite sick and tired of being forced to handle an increasingly heavy patient load which began to endanger lives. The problem was most acute in pediatric intensive care and it was those nurses who called the AFL-CIO number advertised on the Walesa commercials.

In 1995, the Washoe County Grand Jury issued a scathing report on the brazen theft of our county hospital. I wrote extensively about the findings as well as the hospital's multiple violations of health and safety codes, irritating the boardroom brahmins to the point of protesting to the publisher of this here little paper. Harrumph.

The grand jury report was inaccessible to the general public. Thanks to the wisdom of our state lawmakers, the public document cost more than $40 at the courthouse. (Legislators raise fees in order to brag that they have not hiked taxes.)

I scored a copy of the grand jury scandal sheet for free and made it available at several Sparks and Reno copy centers at cost, around two bucks. They sold hundreds. Washoe Med management was not amused.

By popular demand, NevadaLabor.com is now the only place on the web where you may access the document along with my analysis. They will be linked to the web version of this column and won't even cost two dollars.

Washoe Med beat back the 1990 nurses attempt to organize with Teamsters Local 533, but the issues were never resolved.

The nurses finally voted to unionize in 1999 and are now being forced to fight that battle over. Management has refused to recognize the Service Employees International Union as successor to the Operating Engineers. The nurses vote this Tuesday through Thursday.

Wish them another win.

Your life may depend on it one day.

PILLAGING THE ATTORNEY-CLIENT PRIVILEGE. Though it has received almost no attention in the northern press, former Assemblyman Greg Brower, R-Reno, is being checked out by the FBI as a replacement for ex-U.S. Attorney for Nevada Daniel Bogden.

Mr. Bogden was among those fired by former Attorney General Alberto "Torture Man" Gonzales because President Bush and Karl Rove wanted partisan hacks who would bring criminal charges against Democrats for the crime of not being Republicans.

Brower fits that job description. After losing his assembly seat to nutso moonhowler Sharron Angle, R-Reno, he went to work for Gonzales implementing the neo-fascist Patriot Act. In his legal practice with the juice law firm of State Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, he represented insurance companies. Screwing over the little folk should thus come natural in his new job.

Which is where Nevada newspapers need to help the FBI. In the 2001 legislative session, Raggio and Brower led the pack in abstaining from votes because of conflicts of interest with their clients, according to the Associated Press.

In 1999, both Raggio and Brower abstained from voting on legislation to allow thee and me to be taxed for the Reno railroad trench. But that didn't stop Big Bad Bill from strongarming everyone in sight to get the tax passed. How much did their law firm get from trench interests that year? How much from their wholesale conflicts in 2001? Did Brower, like his boss Raggio, lobby while officially abstaining?

Were there bonuses for legislative success? Delivering a free $400 million construction project like the trench must have been worth something to somebody.

Lawyers will scream that such disclosure violates the sacrosanct attorney-client privilege. If Raggio's firm wants the additional brokerable juice of having a former partner in a top slot, they can make it happen. The FBI should insist. Brower and Raggio's conflicts were the subject of a long article by the Center for Public Integrity which noted Brower's vote to benefit a major gambling client. It's juicy reading and will be linked to the web edition of this column at Barbwire.US along with several of my greatest hits about these guys.

As U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said about a century ago, sunshine is the best disinfectant. Sen. Raggio and Mr. Brower should fully disclose the scope of their conflicts and the prices they charged.

Only concerted pressure from Nevada's newspapers can open that gold-plated version of Ms. Pandora's package.

The Nevada Press Association meets in Reno next week. The bait's in the water. Let's see who bites.

Be well. Raise hell.

Smoking Guns...

NEW! Health Care War Room
NevadaLabor.com Exclusive: 1995 Washoe County Grand Jury Report detailing the scandals and skullduggery which resulted in the theft of Reno's public hospital
AFL-CIO leader asks affiliates to pressure management
Statewide 16,000-member seniors group endorses union drive

(1) Striking blows for justice / BARBWIRE 9-16-2007

(2) Party like it's 1929Union-busting Reno hospital offers excuses for rape and pillage
   BARBWIRE 8-12-2007

(3) Washoe Med renown for toxic sludge / BARBWIRE 8-5-2007

...and more ammo

(4) Washoe Med antes into the game to put Medicare into a death spiral; Barbwire by Barbano; Daily Sparks Tribune, 6-12-2005.

(5) Like Washoe Med, Carson-Tahoe Hospital commits suicide and the taxpayers will pay — He who ignores the doofusses is bound to become one, Barbwire by Barbano; Daily Sparks Tribune, 8-5-2001; Carson City Nevada Appeal, 8-8-2001.

(6) Getting down and dirty / BARBWIRE 4-8-2001

(7) Washoe Med: Get Rich Quick at No Money Down; Barbwire by Barbano; Daily Sparks Tribune, 5 November 1995 et seq.

NEW 1995 BARBWIRE ARCHIVE — Analysis of the Grand Jury Report
Additional columns uploaded just in time for the nurses' union vote

NEW NevadaLabor.com Exclusive
Grand Jury Report downloadable in Adobe Acrobat Reader .pdf format
Title page, also in Acrobat Reader

...and more ammo yet

The campaign against forcibly-paid newspaper obituaries
And they wonder why the newspaper business is dying?


The Dean's List

   The Dean of Reno Bloggers could very well be Andrew Barbano, self-described "fighter of public demons," who started putting his "Barbwire" columns online in 1996 and now runs 10 sites.
RENO NEWS & REVIEW, 11-9-2006

The 2009 first-place Nevada Press Association award winners
Tony the Tiger & the flaky NFL
Barbwire / 11-30-2008
Deregulation is never having to say you're sorry
Barbwire / 8-3-2008
Nevada: A good place to visit, but do you want to live here?
Barbwire / 6-15-2008


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Copyright © 1982-2007, 2008, 2009 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 38-year Nevadan, editor of NevadaLabor.com and a member of Communications Workers of America Local 9413/AFL-CIO. As always, his opinions are strictly his own. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.


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